Part buddy film and part Indiana Jones, director Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes follows the eponymous detective (Robert Downey, Jr. sporting his convincing English accent for the first time since his Oscar-nominated turn as Chaplin) and his partner-in-crime-solving, Dr. John H. Watson (Jude Law), as they help Scotland Yard’s Inspector Lestrade (Eddie Marsan) unravel a dastardly plot that threatens to destroy England.
Holmes and Watson must race against time to stop the treacherous Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong, who looks like Andy Garcia’s British twin), a former member of Parliament turned black magic-wielding occult leader who has apparently returned from the dead. During the course of his investigation, Holmes’ path once again crosses with that of the duplicitous Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams), the American beauty who broke his heart years before. Holmes must not only contend with Irene, and whatever her ties are to his case, but also with the imminent break-up of his partnership with Watson, who is getting married and moving out of the 221B Baker Street flat they’ve long shared. Things hardly seem “elementary” for this Sherlock Holmes.
Guy Ritchie has made the most exciting, eccentric and accessible film version yet of the world’s greatest detective (sorry, fellow Bat-fans, but Arthur Conan Doyle’s sleuth held that title long before the Dark Knight). Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes is a breathless action-adventure that hits the ground running. While it often borders on the absurd (if not downright over-the-top), Ritchie manages to keep things on an even keel, just avoiding the cartoonishness that sank that other Victorian literary superhero romp, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. He mixes the brawling and grittiness of Snatch with the cheekiness and briskness of a Mummy or Indy movie. It really shouldn’t work, but for the most part it does.
Thanks to the artwork of Sidney Paget and the Basil Rathbone films, the general public has long had the image stuck in their heads of a beak-nosed Holmes in a deerstalker cap with a portly, exasperated Watson in tow. Downey and Law may finally shatter that perception, and they are the biggest reason why the film still entertains even in its less effective moments. Downey’s Holmes is perhaps the most vulnerable and possibly manic depressive screen incarnation of Doyle’s detective, and also the most physically adept. But it’s still Holmes’ exquisite mind that makes him a great and lasting hero, and Downey is one of the few actors smart enough to believably play a genius. There’s a devious brilliance behind his eyes that convinces us he can see things others don’t notice and put together the pieces faster and better than anyone else.
Equally effective, but in a far less showy way, is Law as the Afghan war veteran Dr. Watson. With Law, we finally get a Watson who is more a partner than a sidekick for Holmes. Watson could very easily have been blown off the screen by Downey’s Holmes, but Law’s intensity and own dashing qualities keep that from happening. He also acquits himself well in his many fight scenes, explaining why such an effective detective would even need a partner to begin with. But beyond all that, we understand why these two are friends. They complement each other, with one preventing the other’s demons from getting the better of them. They love each other, dammit, and always have each others’ backs, regardless of how close or often they come to splitting up. Think of it as sort of a ye olde bromance.
Unlike Law, unfortunately, McAdams is often overwhelmed by Downey. She’s a talented actress and vibrant screen presence, but she’s simply outgunned (which is surprising considering that she held her own with Russell Crowe and Helen Mirren in State of Play). Irene Adler is never handled well here, either on paper or by the actress playing her. Is she a reluctant femme fatale? A villainess who could have a change of heart? We never quite know, and because she’s not convincing at being either a female version of Sherlock or a good bad girl, it’s tough to believe that Downey’s Holmes would fall so hard for her. Irene needed to be the Vesper Lynd to Holmes’ Bond, but instead it’s as if Halle Berry’s Catwoman were pitted against Christian Bale’s Batman. You just don’t buy it.
Strong is serviceable as Blackwood, but he’s a more interesting idea for a villain than he actually is as a character. It’s not really Strong’s fault; he’s a fine actor, but the character is neither gruesome nor broad enough for him to really sink his teeth into, so he’s simply relegated to scowling for most of the movie. It also doesn’t help that his plot, while interesting as a war on terror analogy, is essentially a Scooby-Doo-level ruse. That scheme, along with the mishandling of both Irene and Blackwood, is what prevents the overall rollicking fun Sherlock Holmes from garnering a higher score. On a technical level, Ritchie, production designer Sarah Greenwood and the visual effects team vividly recreate late Victorian era London as it enters the modern age, and composer Hans Zimmer delivers yet another memorable score.
Ritchie’s new school take on an old school icon is respectful without being overly reverential, loud and fun without becoming dumb and hollow, talky but never slow. Despite its shortcomings, Sherlock Holmes is nevertheless damn entertaining, and bodes well as another ongoing franchise for Iron Man’s Downey.
Release date: Friday May 28, 2010 Genre: Comedy Director: Michael Patrick King Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures Screenplay: Michael Patrick King Producer(s): John Melfi, Michael Patrick King, Sarah Jessica Parker Cast: Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Cynthia Nixon, Kristin Davis Official Site:sexandthecitymovie.com Rating:Not Yet Rated Available film art:Sex and the City 2 movie posters
Synopsis In the film, Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda take another bite out of the Big Apple in the sequel to the 2008 summer blockbuster. The original Sex and the City is based on the popular HBO show.
Read what Jim Vejvoda of ign.com has to say about James Cameron’s, “Avatar“. I saw it and I plan on seeing it again. It’s that good. Give yourself a Christmas present and see this one before it leaves the theaters; but see it 3D if at all possible.
The highly anticipated sci-fi epic Avatar centers on Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a paralyzed former Marine who is offered an amazing opportunity after his twin brother dies. Recruited by a big faceless corporation (is there ever any other kind in a movie?), Jake travels to the distant world of Pandora, inhabited by the simple, indigenous Na’vi, blue-skinned humanoids who stand 9′ tall and have tails. Pandora is also home to a valuable mineral that could solve all of Earth’s energy problems … if only those pesky natives didn’t live on top of the richest deposits of it.
Since humans can’t breathe Pandora’s atmosphere, the company has created Avatars, in which human pilots use their consciousness to remotely-control a genetically engineered body that is a hybrid of Na’vi and human DNA. Jake’s deceased brother represented a big investment on the part of the Company, but since he shares the same genome as his twin Jake is offered to take his place as an Avatar driver. Gung-ho for action, Jake agrees and then has the pot further sweetened for him by Colonel Quaritch (Stephen Lang), the scar-faced leader of the Company’s private military wing. Quaritch offers Jake a deal: he wants Jake, via his Avatar, to spy on the Na’vi, learn their ways and gain their trust so that he can convince them to “relocate” off their mineral-rich land. In return, Quaritch guarantees the Company will pay for the costly operation to cure Jake’s paralysis. Jake eagerly agrees, but a few months into the job finds himself “going native” after falling for Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), a beautiful and fierce Na’vi who takes Jake into her tribe. Love and a guilty conscience, along with the realization that he has found a place to belong and call home, propels Jake, in his Avatar form, to switch sides and help the Na’vi make a stand against the increasingly violent encroachment of “the sky people.”
Wow. James Cameron pulled it off. I was a big skeptic about Avatar ever since I saw the promotional footage Cameron showed at last summer’s San Diego Comic-Con; the effects, the characters, the hype — none of them were affecting me even though I really wanted them to. I suffered through every Delgo or FernGully or Dances With Wolves joke — and even made a few myself, I’ll admit — and remain shocked that we’re a week away from the movie’s release and no one in the general population seems to be buzzing about the movie let alone fully understands what the hell it’s about. But neither the film’s marketing nor the sizzle reel roadshow that 20th Century Fox and Cameron went on have done Avatar justice. You just have to see it to believe it.
On a technical level, Avatar is a landmark in motion picture history, a film that will be remembered 70 years from now as redefining the boundaries and possibilities of cinema much the way that D.W. Griffith’s films did. It helps audiences take a giant step forward in their suspension of disbelief in what is “real” onscreen, while raising the bar for what mass appeal genre movies can be and achieve. It also validates all the hype and investment in 3-D and motion-capture animation. And if all that sounds too good to be true, then just know that Avatar is a grand, glorious and kick-ass piece of entertainment, an old-fashioned movie gussied up by state of the art filmmaking. Does Cameron cannibalize from his own films here? Sure, you can’t help but think of Aliens (the presence of mech suits and Sigourney Weaver being the most obvious), but to dismiss the film out of hand on that basis would be narrow-minded. After all, every filmmaker poaches from their own work (Scorsese and Tim Burton spring to mind). Cameron simply knows what he does best, and he does all that and more in Avatar.
My apprehension about Avatar dissipated after the first 10 minutes, by which point I knew that I was in great hands. Cameron displays such confidence here that you’d never know it’s been almost 13 years since he’s released a feature film. He has done a Toklien-esque job of creating the world of Pandora, exploring its ecology and zoology and offering an almost anthropological study of the Na’vi. (I know that all sounds very pretentious and maybe even a bit boring to some, but Cameron manages to make it all an organic part of the story as everything on Pandora is connected; the balance of nature there is such that when one part of the environment is damaged or destroyed, everything else is affected by it.) Perhaps even more so than Dances With Wolves, Avatar reminded me of what Malick was attempting to do with The New World — an exploration of nature and a native culture couched in a culture clash/love story where the white hero falls for the chief’s daughter — but done far more effectively and excitingly. (Yes, Avatar is essentially a sci-fi version of the Pocahontas story.)
Still, don’t think that Avatar is some haughty, New Age-y message movie about environmentalism and the horrors and guilt of colonialism. It certainly is about all those things and much more, but it’s ostensibly a Western set in space crossed with an undercover/behind enemy lines story. Indeed, Avatar shows how tough it is to get a Western made in Hollywood these days: you’ve got to spend hundreds of millions of dollars, set it on another planet and shoot it in motion-capture in order to tell the story of the displacement and destruction of Native Americans. (Na’vi, native, get it?) The Na’vi are sort of a cross between the Sioux and the Cherokee. Their war whoops sound like those of Indians in old Westerns (perhaps too much so; even their “horses” sound, well, too much like horses). Quaritch is essentially Andrew Jackson, a tough old soldier driven to “relocate” the natives by any means necessary. “The Company” is the railroad, while “Unobtainium” (a real term) is akin to gold in the Black Hills or oil in Oklahoma.
For a Westerns fan, U.S. history buff, and sci-fi fanboy such as myself, Avatar offered an embarrassment of riches to geek out over. However, Avatar is also just as much a commentary on the state of the world (and imperialism) today as it is the past. Metaphorical nods to America’s involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan are loud and clear and undeniable. The film’s private military company is essentially Blackwater in space. There’s a scene of cataclysmic destruction that overtly suggests 9/11 and the World Trade Center. The terms “terrorists” and “shock and awe” are used. Yet Cameron never gets too lost in a political argument; he is, after all, a filmaker keenly aware of the need to keep domestic audiences happy if he’s to make commercially successful movies. So by making his tale an escapist fantasy, Cameron has swiped a page from the Red Scare playbook and used genre to cloak the tougher and more critical aspects of his message.
Of course, the film’s themes and subtext wouldn’t matter if we didn’t like the characters. Like District 9′s Wikus van de Merwe, Jake Sully is capable of both kindness and treachery and is out to save himself as much as he is the aliens. Avatar is the make or break Hollywood movie for Aussie actor Sam Worthington, especially after Terminator Salvation flopped, and he acquits himself well, striking a nice balance between callowness, ambition and guilt. As for the rest of the cast, Lang is a revelation as Quaritch; it’s tough to believe that this muscle-bound old soldier is the same actor who played cowardly Ike Clanton in Tombstone and the doughy, sleazy tabloid reporter in Manhunter. Sigourney Weaver brings grace (no pun intended) and wit to her role as cranky but goodhearted scientist Grace Augustine, and the darkly comic Giovanni Ribisi shines as the d-bag suit who represents The Company’s interests on Pandora. Worse than Paul Reiser’s corporate stooge in Aliens, Selfridge is a soulless, bigoted careerist who epitomizes the expression “the banality of evil.”
Saldana, hot off of Star Trek, is solid as Neytiri, but the Na’vi themselves are rather one-dimensional characters. Cameron recycles the stereotypical screen depiction of Native Americans, but sidesteps the thornier aspects of it somewhat by making them aliens. Still, the Na’vi are all types we’ve seen before in Westerns: the noble chief, the warrior princess, the earth mother, the tough brave who is the hero’s rival but ultimately comes to respect him. These archetypes (or stereotypes, if you want) coupled with such a familiar story is the film’s biggest drawback. It could be argued that given the fantastical premise of the film and its strange alien characters, it was probably necessary to employ a more traditional storyline, something relatable for an audience since there were enough other elements that could have possibly lost them. Still, if Avatar sequels happen then it would be nice to see the Na’vi given more depth and dimension as characters.
See proof that you’re not in Kansas anymore.
Books can (and will) be written on Avatar’s visual effects. Cameron and his team have achieved a stunning level of photo-realism in the environment and inhabitants of Pandora and of the mech suits and vessels of the humans. (One thought kept going through my mind during the climactic battle: James Cameron should direct the Halo movie.) He gradually introduces us to the various fantastical elements, allowing us time to let these things become real in our minds. For the most part, the yellow eyes of the Na’vi seem alive and expressive (a first for motion-capture characters, in my opinion), although there are a few times when Jake’s looked “dead” to me. The level of detail in the Na’vis’ skin, and in the vegetation and beasts of Pandora, is astounding. Not since seeing Star Wars as a little kid have I felt so completely and magically transported to such a strange, new world.
This gradual approach has its drawbacks, though, in that it contributes to the film’s bloated running time. This is a real bladder buster of a movie, and I’d be amazed if there were any deleted scenes of importance on the eventual DVD release. For example, the “learning to fly your dragon” sequence goes on far too long, with Cameron using it as a travelogue to show off Pandora — and all the nifty and costly CGI landscapes his team created — rather than to advance the story. That’s just one example, but the film definitely could have been tightened up. The running time and the overall formulaic nature of the story is what keeps me from giving Avatar a higher score.
To say that I was pleasantly surprised by Avatar is an understatement. My advice to you is to forget all that you think you know or believe about Avatar. Just go and experience the world of Pandora and revel in the fact that one of the most entertaining filmmakers of our time is back in action.
Release date: Friday January 29, 2010 Genre: Comedy Director: Mark Steven Johnson Studio: Touchstone Pictures Screenplay: David Diamond, David Weissman Producer(s): Gary Foster, Andrew Panay, Mark Steven Johnson Cast: Kristen Bell, Josh Duhamel, Will Arnett, Alexis Dziena, Jon Heder, Dax Shepard, Kate Micucci, Bobby Moynihan, Danny DeVito, Anjelica Huston Official Site: go.com/wheninrome Rating:PG-13 for some suggestive content Available film art:When in Rome movie posters
Synopsis Disillusioned with romance during her whirlwind trip to Rome, an ambitious New Yorker defiantly swipes a few magic coins from a “foolish” wishing fountain, inadvertently igniting the passions of a motley crew of suitors as she’s pursued by a handsome reporter with charm to spare. Beth (Kristen Bell) is at a point in her life where love seems like a luxury she just can’t afford. Years of waiting for that perfect romance has made Beth bitter, and one day, while vacationing in Rome, she cynically plucks a handful of coins from a local fountain of love. Almost immediately thereafter, Beth finds herself fending off the advances of a diminutive sausage magnate (Danny DeVito), a lanky street magician (Jon Heder), a doting painter (Will Arnett), and a narcissistic male model (Dax Shepard). Meanwhile, a smitten reporter (Josh Duhamel) does his best to convince Beth that true love isn’t just a topic of fairy tales and romance novels.
Release date: Friday November 20, 2009 (Limited) Genre: Drama Running Time: 109 min. Director: Lee Daniels Studio: Maple Pictures Screenplay: Damien Paul
Producer(s): Gary Magness, Lee Daniels, Sarah Siegel-Magness Cast: Gabourey “Gabby” Sidibe, Mo’Nique , Paula Patton Official Site:weareallprecious.com Rating:R for child abuse including sexual assault, and pervasive language Tomatometer rating: 91% (Certified Fresh) Available film art: Precious movie posters
Synopsis Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges) Precious Jones (Gabourey Sidibe) is a high-school girl with nothing working in her favor. She is pregnant with her father’s child—for the second time. She can’t read or write, and her schoolmates tease her for being fat.
Her home life is a horror, ruled by a mother (Mo’Nique) who keeps her imprisoned both emotionally and physically. Precious’s instincts tell her one thing: if she’s ever going to break from the chains of ignorance, she will have to dig deeply into her own resources.
Release date: Dec 16, 2009 Limited Genre: Drama Running Time: 111 min. Director: Scott Cooper Studio: Fox Searchlight Pictures Screenplay: Scott Cooper Producer(s): Rob Carliner, Judy Cairo, Robert Duvall, T Bone Burnett Cast: Jeff Bridges, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Robert Duvall, Tom Bower, James Keane, William Marquez, Ryan Bingham, Paul Herman, Rick Dial Official Site:foxsearchlight.com/crazyheart Rating:R for language and brief sexuality Tomatometer rating: 94% (Certified Fresh) Available film art: Crazy Heart movie posters
Synopsis Bad Blake (Jeff Bridges) is a broken-down, hard-living country music singer who’s had way too many marriages, far too many years on the road and one too many drinks way too many times. And yet, Bad can’t help but reach for salvation with the help of Jean (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a journalist who discovers the real man behind the musician. As he struggles down the road of redemption, Bad learns the hard way just how tough life can be on one man’s crazy heart.
Based on the novel of the same name by Thomas Cobb.
Release date: Friday January 15, 2010 Genre: Action/Drama/Sc-Fi Director: Albert and Allen Hughes Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures Screenplay: Gary Whitta Producer(s): Denzel Washington, Joel Silver, Andrew A. Kosove, Broderick Johnson Cast: Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis, Ray Stevenson Official Site:thebookofelimovie.com Rating:Not Yet Rated Available film art:The Book of Eli movie posters
Synopsis Starring Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis, Ray Stevenson, Jennifer Beals, Evan Jones, the film revolves around a lone warrior (Washington) who must fight to bring society the knowledge that could be the key to its redemption. Oldman plays the despot of a small makeshift town who’s determined to take possession of the book Eli’s guarding.
Synopsis: Producer Jerry Bruckheimer brings his first 3-D film to the big screen with G-Force, a comedy adventure about the latest evolution of a covert government program to train animals to work in espionage. Armed with the latest high-tech spy equipment, these highly trained guinea pigs discover that the fate of the world is in their paws. Tapped for the G-Force are guinea pigs Darwin (voice of SAM ROCKWELL), the squad leader determined to succeed at all costs; Blaster (voice of TRACY MORGAN), an outrageous weapons expert with tons of attitude and a love for all things extreme; and Juarez (voice of PENELOPE CRUZ), a sexy martial arts pro; plus the literal fly-on-the-wall reconnaissance expert, Mooch, and a star-nosed mole, Speckles (voice of NICOLAS CAGE), the computer and information specialist.
Cast: The Wibberleys, Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, Tim Firth Nicolas Cage, Steve Buscemi, Tracy Morgan, Bill Nighy, Will Arnett, Zach Galifianakis, Kelli Garner, Gabriel Casseus, Jack Conley, Penelope Cruz, Tyler Patrick Jones; Directed By: Hoyt Yeatman
Synopsis: Inglourious Basterds begins in German-occupied France, where Shosanna Dreyfus (Mélanie Laurent) witnesses the execution of her family at the hand of Nazi Colonel Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz). Shosanna narrowly escapes and flees to Paris, where she forges a new identity as the owner and operator of a cinema.
Elsewhere in Europe, Lieutenant Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) organizes a group of Jewish soldiers to engage in targeted acts of retribution. Known to their enemy as “The Basterds,” Raine’s squad joins German actress and undercover agent Bridget Von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger) on a mission to take down the leaders of The Third Reich. Fates converge under a cinema marquee, where Shosanna is poised to carry out a revenge plan of her own
Cast: Brad Pitt, Cloris Leachman, Diane Kruger, Mike Myers, B.J. Novak, Eli Roth; Directed By: Quentin Tarantino
Synopsis: From the Academy Award®-winning director and world-renowned Japanese animation legend Hayao Miyazaki comes PONYO, a story inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale “The Little Mermaid.” Already a box-office success in Japan, the story of a young and overeager goldfish named Ponyo (voiced by NOAH CYRUS) and her quest to become human features an outstanding roster of voice talent, including CATE BLANCHETT, MATT DAMON, TINA FEY, CLORIS LEACHMAN, LIAM NEESON, LILY TOMLIN, BETTY WHITE and FRANKIE JONAS as Sosuke, a young boy who befriends Ponyo.
Synopsis: A generation began in his backyard. From Academy Award-winning director Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), comes Taking Woodstock, a new comedy inspired by the true story of Elliot Tiber (Demetri Martin) and his family, who inadvertently played a pivotal role in making the famed Woodstock Music and Arts Festival into the happening that it was.
It’s 1969, and Elliot Tiber, a down-on-his-luck interior designer in Greenwich Village, New York, has to move back upstate to help his parents run their dilapidated Catskills motel, The El Monaco. The bank’s about to foreclose; his father wants to burn the place down, but hasn’t paid the insurance; and Elliot is still figuring how to come out to his parents.
When Elliot hears that a neighboring town has pulled the permit on a hippie music festival, he calls the producers, thinking he could drum up some much-needed business for the motel. Three weeks later, half a million people are on their way to his neighbor’s farm in White Lake, NY, and Elliot finds himself swept up in a generation-defining experience that would change his life, and American culture, forever.
Cast: Demtri Martin, Emile Hirsch, Liev Schreiber, Imelda Staunton, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Henry Goodman, Eugene Levy, Paul Dano, Dan Fogler, Mamie Gummer; Directed By: Ang Lee
Synopsis: From “Old School” director Todd Phillips comes a comedy about a bachelor party gone very, very wrong.
Two days before his wedding, Doug (JUSTIN BARTHA) drives to Las Vegas with his best buddies Phil and Stu (BRADLEY COOPER and ED HELMS) and his future brother-in-law Alan (ZACH GALIFIANAKIS), for a blow-out bachelor party they vow they’ll never forget.
But when the three groomsmen wake up the next morning with pounding headaches, they can’t remember a thing. Their luxury hotel suite is beyond trashed and the groom is nowhere to be found.
With no clue about what happened and little time to spare, the trio must attempt to retrace their bad decisions from the night before in order to figure out where things went wrong in the hopes of finding Doug and getting him back to L.A. in time for his wedding.
But the more they begin to uncover, the more they realize just how much trouble they’re really in.
Warner Bros. Pictures presents, in association with Legendary Pictures, a Green Hat Films Production of a Todd Phillips Movie: “The Hangover,” starring Bradley Cooper (“He’s Just Not That Into You”), Ed Helms (“The Office”), Zach Galifianakis (“What Happens in Vegas”), Heather Graham (“Baby on Board”), Justin Bartha (the “National Treasure” films) and Jeffrey Tambor (“Arrested Development”).
The film is directed by Todd Phillips (“Old School”) from a screenplay by Jon Lucas & Scott Moore (“Four Christmases”). Todd Phillips and Dan Goldberg (“Old School”) produce, with Thomas Tull (“Watchmen”), Jon Jashni (“Observe and Report”), William Fay (“Observe and Report”), Scott Budnick (“School for Scoundrels”), Chris Bender (“American Pie,” TV’s “Kyle XY”) and J.C. Spink (“Kyle XY”) serving as executive producers.
The creative team includes director of photography Lawrence Sher (“Dan in Real Life”), production designer Bill Brzeski (“The Bucket List”), and editor Debra Neil-Fisher (“Baby Mama”). Music is by Christophe Beck (“What Happens in Vegas”). Soundtrack album is available on New Line Records.
Synopsis: Romantic-comedy regulars Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker finally unite in this fish-out-of-water laugher. The actors play Paul and Meryl Morgan, a Manhattan couple whose marriage is in danger. But it turns out all they may need is a change of scenery: when the Morgans witness a murder and are sent by the government to small-town Wyoming to hide from the killers, their marriage shows signs of recovery. DID YOU HEAR ABOUT THE MORGANS? also stars Sam Elliott, Mary Steenburgen, and Elisabeth Moss.
Cast: Hugh Grant, Sarah Jessica Parker, Sam Elliott, Mary Steenburgen, Elisabeth Moss, Michael Kelly; Directed by: Marc Lawrence
Synopsis: The film tells the inspiring true story of how Nelson Mandela joined forces with the captain of South Africa’s rugby team, Francois Pienaar, to help unite their country. Newly elected President Mandela knows his nation remains racially and economically divided in the wake of apartheid. Believing he can bring his people together through the universal language of sport, Mandela rallies South Africa’s underdog rugby team as they make an unlikely run to the 1995 World Cup Championship match.
Cast: Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon, Robert Hobbs; Director: Clint Eastwood
The Princess and the Frog
Synopsis: Walt Disney Animation Studios presents the musical THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG, an animated comedy set in the great city of New Orleans. From the creators of “The Little Mermaid” and “Aladdin” comes a modern twist on a classic tale, featuring a beautiful girl named Tiana (ANIKA NONI ROSE), a frog prince who desperately wants to be human again, and a fateful kiss that leads them both on a hilarious adventure through the mystical bayous of Louisiana.
THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG marks the return to hand-drawn animation from the revered team of John Musker and Ron Clements, with music by Oscar®-winning composer Randy Newman.
Cast: Anika Noni Rose, Oprah Winfrey, Keith David, Jenifer Lewis, John Goodman, Terrence Howard, Jim Cummings; Directed by: Ron Clements, John Musker
Synopsis: Though HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN director Alfonso Cuaron still holds the crown for best film in the series, David Yates is making an attempt at a coup with HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE. Dark, gleefully funny, and beautifully shot, this adaptation of J.K. Rowling’s novel should please fans despite numerous changes to the 650-page source material. In this sixth film in the series, Harry’s (Daniel Radcliffe) inevitable confrontation with the dark wizard Voldemort grows closer, and Hogwarts headmaster Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) wants the young student to be prepared. He guides Harry through a memory of a young Voldemort, but an important moment is missing. Harry must extract this memory from the new Hogwarts teacher, Horace Slughorn (a perfectly slimy Jim Broadbent), who is as eager for fame as he is reluctant to revisit this painful moment. Meanwhile, romance rules the school of witches and wizards, with Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) refusing to admit their feelings for each other. Harry also harbors a secret love of his own: Ron’s younger sister, Ginny (Bonnie Wright). But despite his crush, Harry keeps an eye on Snape (Alan Rickman) and Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton), who may be responsible for attacks on the school. HALF-BLOOD PRINCE deftly balances the humor of Hogwarts heartbreak and the thrills of dark villains attacking the school. The cast is as talented as ever, and the youngest members–Radcliffe, Grint, and Watson–have developed their talent well. However, this film is most remarkable for its fine cinematography from AMELIE director of photography Bruno Delbonnel. Using a muted palette, Delbonnel makes Hogwarts look hauntingly beautiful in a way that fans have never seen. There’s always plenty of fun and adventure in the series, but this entry boasts impressive visuals as well.
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Helena Bonham Carter, David Bradley, Jim Broadbent, Jessie Cave, Robbie Coltrane, Warwick Davis, Frank Dillane, Tom Felton, Michael Gambon, Matthew Lewis, Evanna Lynch, Helen McCrory, Alan Rickman, Maggie Smith, Natalia Tena, Hero Fiennes Tiffin, Julie Walters, David Thewlis, Bonnie Wright; Directed by: David Yates
Julie and Julia
Synopsis: Meryl Streep is Julia Child and Amy Adams is Julie Powell in writer-director Nora Ephron’s adaptation of two bestselling memoirs: Powell’s Julie & Julia and My Life in France, by Julia Child with Alex Prud’homme.
Based on two true stories, Julie & Julia intertwines the lives of two women who, though separated by time and space, are both at loose ends…until they discover that with the right combination of passion, fearlessness and butter, anything is possible.
Cast: Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Stanley Tucci, Chris Messina, Linda Emond; Directed By: Nora Ephron
Synopsis: Johnny Depp and Christian Bale emerge from two of the biggest blockbuster series of all time (Pirates of the Caribbean and Batman, respectively) to star in this crime drama from HEAT director Michael Mann. Depp stars as charismatic 1930s gangster John Dillinger, whose notorious bank robberies have turned him into a celebrity during the Depression era. The rise in crime has J. Edgar Hoover (Billy Crudup) desperate to have his newly created FBI take down gangsters such as Dillinger, “Pretty Boy” Floyd (Channing Tatum), and “Baby Face” Nelson (Stephen Graham). Enter Agent Melvin Purvis (Bale), an ambitious crimefighter sent to Chicago to capture Dillinger and his gang. The criminal has evaded the law before, but he is drawn to the Second City by the beautiful Billie Frechette (Marion Cotillard). Though PUBLIC ENEMIES boasts big names, it feels more like an arthouse offering than a typical gangster picture. With its intimately shot violence and 1930s setting, the film is more BONNIE AND CLYDE than GOODFELLAS. Mann and director of photography Dante Spinotti alternate between hand-held, high-quality digital cameras and more traditional film stock, giving this crime drama a carefully composed, thoroughly modern look. But the casting of the leads is vintage Hollywood: Depp could be the modern incarnation of silent star Rudolph Valentino, and Cotillard’s wide-eyed beauty–and talent–would fit right in with the starlets of the golden age. Everyone else, including Bale, fades into the background, but it’s hard to complain when Depp and Cotillard give such magnetic performances.
Cast: Johnny Depp, Christian Bale, Marion Cotillard, Jason Clarke, Rory Cochran, Billy Crudup, Stephen Dorff, Stephen Lang, John Ortiz, Giovanni Ribisi, David Wenham, John Michael Bolger, Bill Camp, Matt Craven, Emilie De Ravin, Don Frye, Spencer Garrett, Shawn Hatosy, Peter Gerety, Stephen Graham, John Hoogenakker, Branka Katic, Domenick Lombardozzi, David Warshofsky; Directed By: Michael Mann